Northanger Abbey. Part 81

Northanger Abbey. We are to part

Northanger Abbey 81a

‘My dear Catherine, you must not — you must not indeed —

‘ were Eleanor’s first connected words. ‘I am quite well. This

kindness distracts me — I cannot bear it — I come to you

on such an errand!’

‘Errand! To me!’

‘How shall I tell you! Oh! How shall I tell you!’

A new idea now darted into Catherine’s mind, and turn-

ing as pale as her friend, she exclaimed, ‘‘Tis a messenger

from Woodston!’

‘You are mistaken, indeed,’ returned Eleanor, looking at

her most compassionately; ‘it is no one from Woodston. It

is my father himself.’ Her voice faltered, and her eyes were

turned to the ground as she mentioned his name. His un-

looked-for return was enough in itself to make Catherine’s

heart sink, and for a few moments she hardly supposed

there were anything worse to be told. She said nothing; and

Eleanor, endeavouring to collect herself and speak with

firmness, but with eyes still cast down, soon went on.

Northanger Abbey 81a

My dear Catherine, we are to part. My father has recollected

an engagement that takes our whole family away on Monday.

We are going to Lord Longtown’s, near Hereford, for a fortnight.

Explanation and apology are equally impossible. I cannot

attempt either.’

‘My dear Eleanor,’ cried Catherine, suppressing her feel-

ings as well as she could, ‘do not be so distressed. A second

engagement must give way to a first. I am very, very sorry

we are to part — so soon, and so suddenly too; but I am not

offended, indeed I am not. I can finish my visit here, you

know, at any time; or I hope you will come to me. Can you,

when you return from this lord’s, come to Fullerton?’

‘It will not be in my power, Catherine.’

‘Come when you can, then.’
Northanger Abbey 81b

Eleanor made no answer; and Catherine’s thoughts re-

curring to something more directly interesting, she added,

thinking aloud, ‘Monday — so soon as Monday; and you

all go. Well, I am certain of — I shall be able to take leave,

however. I need not go till just before you do, you know. Do

not be distressed, Eleanor, I can go on Monday very well.

My father and mother’s having no notice of it is of very lit-

tle consequence. The general will send a servant with me, I

dare say, half the way — and then I shall soon be at Salis-

bury, and then I am only nine miles from home.’
Northanger Abbey 81c

‘Ah, Catherine! Were it settled so, it would be somewhat

less intolerable, though in such common attentions you

would have received but half what you ought. But — how

can I tell you? — tomorrow morning is fixed for your leav-

ing us, and not even the hour is left to your choice; the very

carriage is ordered, and will be here at seven o’clock, and no

servant will be offered you.’
Northanger Abbey 81d

Catherine was breathless and speechless. ‘I could

hardly believe my senses, when I heard it; and no dis-

pleasure, no resentment that you can feel at this moment,

however justly great, can be more than I myself — but I

must not talk of what I felt. Oh! That I could suggest any-

thing in extenuation! Good God! What will your father and

mother say! After courting you from the protection of real

friends to this — almost double distance from your home,

to have you driven out of the house, without the consider-

ations even of decent civility! Dear, dear Catherine, in being

the bearer of such a message, I seem guilty myself of all its

insult; yet, I trust you will acquit me, for you must have

been long enough in this house to see that I am but a nomi-

nal mistress of it, that my real power is nothing.’
Northanger Abbey 81e

To be continued

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